The imaginative team behind Fringe 2010’s hit iSchool Musical returns to Fringe with a hilarious new show, iToonsical. Based on the idea of an animated movie musical (think Disney or “South Park”), the characters in the show they created when i was there was a completely improvised musical were all animals.
If you have never been to an Improv show and are wondering what an improvised musical is all about, basically it is where the cast and their accompanist/director, Travis Ploeger, create all the piano music, lyrics and dialogue for each zany scene off the cuff using various improvisational techniques and some creative audience suggestions. So no two shows are alike but each will be hilarious.
To get inspiration on general plot and animal ideas, the cast, which last night consisted of many Washington Improv Theater veterans including Matt Berman, Mark Chalfant, Greer Smith, Liz Demery, Karen Lange, Justin Purvis and Curtis Raye, asks the audience to fill out suggestion slips. Then minutes before the theater lights darken, the cast chooses a few slips randomly to set the scene and then the show begins!
A lot of the success of each musical depends on the creativity of the audience’s suggestions. Last night, the audience did not disappoint with some very funny ideas including having the show begin in a back alley in Chinatown with a panda. As the show started, the cast immediately broke into various animals, including a red panda and a black panda who were just dropped off by the Chinatown bus and obsessed with get rich quick schemes using candy bars, a duck mother and her little duck son lamenting over their missing father duck (who it turns out is hanging upside down in the window of a local Chinese restaurant), a squirrel husband and wife who have marital issues, and an evil squid who has dreams of world domination. As the story develops, the cast spontaneously come up with funny, very clever songs like “He Keeps Me Safe at Night,” “Work Ethic You Are My Arch Nemesis,” and “There Is Only One Way Out of Here.”
What makes iTooniscal such a great show is the creativity of the cast, coming up with off the cuff plot, dialogue and lyrics. Who but them would have thought that an evil squid could develop brainwashing techniques that work on ducks as well as raccoons?
Most of the cast members are not blessed with great singing voices (this is not Broadway, remember), but I have to single out Karen Lange (the squirrel wife) and Justin Purvis (PI Rocky the Raccoon) who sang impressively well and were especially hilarious in every scene. Of course, the musical could not be a musical without the excellent piano skills of accompanist and director, Travis Ploeger.
As with last year’s iSchoolMusical, this cast is a great comedy group who seem to inspire each other, laugh easily and have a fantastic time acting and singing together. I am a huge fan of Improv and I think Washington Improv Theater has another winner with iToonsical!
iToonsical has 5 more performances at The Source, 1835 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC.
Note: Washington Improv Theater also has free long form improvs, called Harold Night, every Tuesday night at Source thru August 30th.